MILWAUKEE — Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana hit back-to-back home runs to begin the ninth inning for the Milwaukee Brewers, but the NL wild-card leaders couldn’t complete the rally and lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on Sunday.
The Brewers remained 2 1/2 games behind Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to Cincinnati. The Brewers came into the day leading the NL wild-card chase by 3 1/2 games.
Pirates starter Trevor Williams (13-9) pitched six scoreless innings. Milwaukee hadn’t scored in 16 straight innings before Aguilar’s shot into the left-field bleachers off closer Felipe Vazquez to lead off the ninth.
Santana followed with a home run on the next pitch. But Vazquez settled down from there to convert his 24th consecutive save and 34th overall this season. Ryan Braun struck out, Mike Moustakas popped out weakly and Erik Kratz grounded out to end it.
Christian Yelich’s NL-best streak of reaching base safely ended at 30 games with an 0-for-4 performance for Milwaukee.
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin (14-8) was moved up in the rotation because of his past success against Pittsburgh. But, without any run support, it didn’t matter.
Meanwhile, Williams sparkled again. After a so-so first-half, he is 6-2 with a 1.19 ERA in 10 second-half starts. He struck out seven while scattering two hits and two walks.
Pittsburgh will remain a major factor in who ultimately wins the NL Central with three more games at home against Milwaukee beginning Friday and a four-game trip to Chicago starting Sept. 24.
Pirates: C Elias Diaz (right hamstring) could return to action as soon as Monday against Kansas City. . Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is scheduled to undergo cervical neck surgery this week. Justin Meccage will serve as interim pitching coach.
Brewers: Manager Craig Counsell says he’s not concerned with Chacin’s workload, which now stands at 178 innings. With two more projected starts this season, Chacin will finish just shy of his career high of 197 1/3 innings in 2013.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (6-9, 3.87 ERA) leads Pittsburgh into an interleague matchup with the Kansas City Royals.
Brewers: Wade Miley (4-2, 2.23) gets the nod to begin a three-game series with Cincinnati.